Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court had directed the government to release water

In a measure that is long overdue and that is expected to bring some relief to the parched districts of Maharashtra’s Marathwada region, the State government has finally ordered water release from upstream reservoirs into the Jayakwadi dam in the region.

On Wednesday, the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court directed the government to release sufficient quantum of water, within 48 hours, into the Jayakwadi dam (built to address the irrigation and drinking water woes of Marathwada) from the reservoirs upstream.

The court issued the directive on a writ petition filed last year by the Marathwada Janata Vikas Parishad.

In the petition, the citizens of Jalna and Aurangabad districts had demanded the immediate release of 27. 5 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) into the Jayakwadi dam to meet the drinking, agriculture and industrial needs of Aurangabad and Jalna townships and more than 400 villages in the districts.

On Friday, the government requested the court to reconsider its decision on water release from dams in Nashik district, citing ‘practical difficulties’ in conveying the water to the Jayakwadi dam and pointing to the low reserves in the upstream reservoirs. But the court stood firm. The government started water release from Saturday evening.

Officials said the water would be released from the Karanjwan, Gangapur, Bhandardara and Mula dams in the Nashik and Ahmednagar districts.

However, the quantum of water and the number of days the water will take to reach the Jayakwadi dam remain unclear.

To prevent illegal tapping of water through pumps, the government has decided to increase load-shedding in the catchments of the Nashik dams. The Nashik District Superintendent has been asked to take steps to maintain law and order.

Senior lawyer Pradeep Deshmukh, who represents the Marathwada Janata Vikas Parishad, had told the court that while the government had released 11.5 tmcft into the Jayakwadi dam, in actuality barely 6.5 tmcft reached the reservoir, and a further 12 tmcft was available in the dams of the Nashik and Ahmednagar districts.

With the region in the grip of an acute water crisis, the net water reserves of the Jayakwadi dam stand at a perilous 1.54 tmcft. The dam runs a deficit of 3.34 tmcft.